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Car manufacturers continue to place short-term profits ahead of consumer safety.  Even with the infamous faulty tire scandal in 2000, automakers still cut corners in its design features, which poses the risk of personal injuries and wrongful deaths for unsuspecting drivers and passengers. Despite years of highly-publicized questions over faulty and neglectful car and tire manufacturing and their direct links to the personal injuries and wrongful deaths of scores of Americans, consumer safety remains a lower priority than sales.
The  the August 2007 edition of The Safety Record, detailing the abhorred conduct of Foreign Tire Sales, an importer of tires from China. The company failed to monitor the denigration of its product’s standards from its supplier, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Company, even though it knew of the potential hazards.

Foreign Tire Sales, based in New Jersey, voiced its concern to its Chinese business partners as far back as August 2004 because of rising damage claims. FTS officials worried that short-term profit gains were going to translate into long-term losses in liability, the article stated.

Now FTS faces liability in an Aug. 12, 2006 rollover accident in Pennsylvania, which killed two passengers and caused permanent brain damage in a third person. The accident, involving a 2000 Chevrolet Express, was a direct result of the supplier’s decision to discontinue placing a gum strip in the tires, a basic and necessary safety feature. FTS knew about it for years. But the company is blaming Hangzhou for the loss of these lives. Meanwhile, FTS’s web site is peppered with recall information.

It’s unconscionable that even after the Firestone/Ford debacle, faulty tires continue to kill Americans. But the sad reality is that automakers cut corners at the consumer’s expense in several ways beyond tires.

For example, it is common knowledge among manufacturers that laminated glass is safer than tempered glass. Tempered glass shatters and causes lacerations while laminated glass holds firm upon a car collision. While laminated glass is used for windshields, tempered glass continues to be primarily used for side, rear and roof windows.

Other examples include SUV rollovers, a common problem caused by top-heavy design and substandard safety testing. Ford has also faced questions over door-latch defects, which causes passengers to be ejected from their vehicles upon impact. A passenger is 30 times more likely to be ejected from a car if a door flies open upon impact, according to an internal Ford memo, as noted in the November 2004 edition of Trial, a product liability publication.  Such victims will suffer severe personal injuries and many wrongful deaths because of these defects.

Car safety has come a long way since Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe At Any Speed” was published in 1965. But unfortunately, car manufacturers continue to act as irresponsibly as General Motors did 40 years ago, when the company deemed it cheaper to defend lawsuits than invest in its product with consumer safety in mind.

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Richard Alexander